The biggest question mark for the Los Angeles Lakers going into the offseason was what they would do with Russell Westbrook and to this point, there has been no resolution.
Westbrook’s first season with the Lakers was a huge disappointment, but he still opted in to his $47 million contract so is with the Lakers for one more year.
While Rob Pelinka said the Lakers will welcome Westbrook back with open arms hoping he can embrace a defense-first role under new head coach Darvin Ham, the point guard’s name has still been in trade rumors all offseason, most recently for Kyrie Irving.
With LeBron James campaigning for the Lakers to trade Westbrook for Irving, things got a little awkward at the Lakers’ Las Vegas Summer League opener when both James and Westbrook were in attendance but sat on opposite sides of the gym and did not embrace one another.
It appears that may have sparked some conversation with Westbrook and his long-time agent Thad Foucher of Wasserman as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that he and Westbrook have agreed to part ways due to irreconcilable differences:
In a statement, Foucher said: “I represented Russell Westbrook for 14 years and am proud of our partnership which included a highly successful 2008 draft, a super-max contract and the only renegotiation-and-extend max contract in history. I also supported Russell throughout his rise into a prominent fashion industry figure and recently orchestrated three successive trades on Russell’s behalf — culminating with the trade to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
“Each time, teams gave up valuable players and assets to acquire Russell – and each time, a new organization embraced his arrival. We did it together with grace and class.
“Now, with a possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the marketplace is telling the Lakers they must add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario. And even then, such a trade may require Russell to immediately move on from the new team via buyout.
“My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell’s value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered. Russell is a first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and will prove that again before he is retired.
“Unfortunately, irreconcilable differences exist as to his best pathway forward and we are no longer working together. I wish Russell and his family the very best.”
If the difference of opinion was on whether or not to remain with the Lakers in 2022-23 and embrace a role under Ham, then that would imply that Westbrook would prefer to be traded.
According to Dan Woike of the L.A. Times though, Westbrook has not officially requested to be traded:
Multiple sources tell the @latimes that Russell Westbrook has never requested a trade from the Lakers.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 16, 2022
Even if he hasn’t officially requested a trade, it’s been clear for a while that the Lakers have been looking to trade him.
Perhaps his relationship with James and what happened at Summer League is part of why Westbrook would want out, but it is understandable why he would not want to be with the Lakers after how his first season went down. It would be interesting to know whether this was a recent change-of-heart for Westbrook as he has been professional and supportive of the organization all offseason, even attending Ham’s introductory press conference.
Whether or not any team will be willing to take on Westbrook in a trade remains to be seen, but it seems like the Lakers will exhaust every opinion to find something that works for everyone.
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